At a tender age, Mary Blunt used deception to wheedle her way into a position as maid at the mansion of the Burton family, in mid-19th century New Hampshire. It is a household with six servants who work for Mr. Burton, a textile tycoon. His wife is blind, and retains a ‘companion’ by the name of Rebecca. Mrs. Eugenie Burton is childless and has resorted to taking laudanum to make her days more palatable.
When Lucy is summoned to take care of Mrs. Burton when Rebecca is temporarily absent, she gets a taste for the ‘easy’ life of a companion. No more skinning rabbits, emptying bedpans, scouring pots. Also, Lucy finds herself mightily attracted to the engaging Mrs. Burton. Who could blame her if she once more uses deception to secure the companion’s position on a more permanent basis?
However… Rebecca has her own agenda and is not to underestimated…
Twenty-four year old Lucy Blunt sits in a damp and dismal prison cell. She is awaiting death by hanging. She is said to have murdered two women, but pleads innocence.
“I am not a thief, though I have stolen. I am not a murderer, though I have killed.”
One must always be cautious when hearing a story told by a single narrator. After all, this narrator is bound to be biased in their own favour…. Such is the case of Lucy Blunt. Can we believe everything she says? Do we want to?
In my case, YES, I did. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her plight due to her tragic and sorrowful personal history. Her life had been filled with loss, drudgery and struggle, with little experience of love. So, if she was less than truthful – it was understandable, yet not wholly unforgivable. Despite the more unsavory aspects of her character I found myself rooting for Lucy throughout the entirety of the book.
This is a story of lies and deception. Of a precarious balance of power, and questionable affections, betrayals, jealousies, and suspicion.
The characters were not thoroughly likeable, but in this case, I could overlook that. The atmospheric descriptions of the mansion, the servants, and the time period added to my enjoyment of the novel greatly.
I recommend this debut novel to readers who have enjoyed the work of Laura Purcell, and those who like character-driven, atmospheric historical fiction.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley. ISBN: 9781542006392 – ASIN: B07NL358MX – 272 pages
Kim Taylor Blakemore writes dark and twisty historical novels that feature fierce and often dangerous women. She writes about the thieves and servants, murderesses and soiled doves, grifters and flimflam girls – women with tangled lies and hidden motives. The Companion is her adult debut in historical mystery. Her second novel for Lake Union, After Alice Fell, will be released in January 2021. She is also the author of the YA historicals Bowery Girl and the WILLA Literary Award winner Cissy Funk.
Recipient of a Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award, WILLA Literary Award, and three Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) grants, she is also a novel coach with her company Novelitics and is a member of Historical Novel Society, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Outside of writing, she is a veteran saber fencer, history nerd, gothic novel lover. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon and loves the rain. Truly. Except in the middle of winter and when walking the dogs.
Visit Kim Taylor Blakemore’s website.